Team members from Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge, RAF and TUDCI  Photos show: Front row from left to right: Dr Isabelle Steinke (TUDCI), Dr Shaun Fitzgerald (CCRC), Sir David King (CCRC), Professo

The Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge and Refreeze the Arctic Foundation (RAF) signed a multi-year agreement to fund research methods for brightening clouds to combat climate change.

Marine Cloud Brightening could potentially provide a means of safeguarding our climate whilst we get our greenhouse gas levels down

Dr Shaun Fitzgerald

The Cambridge Centre will work in close cooperation with RAF and Delft University of Technology Climate Institute (TUDCI) in the Netherlands on research to create methods for marine cloud brightening, a process that generates white cloud cover to increase the reflection of sunlight over the Arctic during the summer months and slow the melting of Arctic sea ice.

“We all know that cutting emissions is a non-negotiable requirement if we are to have a long-term climate that can sustain life as we know it. The problem is that we are moving too slowly and we are at serious risk of losing the Arctic summer sea ice, glaciers and other ecosystems which support cooler temperatures on Earth. Marine Cloud Brightening could potentially provide a means of safeguarding our climate whilst we get our greenhouse gas levels down,” said Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, Director of Research at the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge.

Cambridge engineers are hoping to mimic the way nature makes clouds. Storms at sea with crashing waves generate droplets of water which dry out to form salt crystals. Air currents carry the tiniest of these crystals high up to where the air is cool and moist, providing the nuclei around which white clouds can form.

“Maybe we can help nature to make whiter clouds by creating our own spray of sea water. If we can fine-tune the droplet size then we can make the clouds brighter and longer lasting," said Professor Hugh Hunt (Engineering Dynamics and Vibration at Cambridge). 

Simultaneously TUDCI will offer its cloud physics, modelling and remote sensing expertise to derive the optimum combination of droplet size and number concentration needed for achieving the desired brightening effect.

RAF is confident that the cooperation between CCRC and TUDCI, where each research centre contributes following its fields of expertise, will accelerate the delivery of a Proof of Concept for Marine Cloud Brightening.

“We are extremely happy we can make this donation. Today is the start of a multi-year highly synergistic collaboration between two top universities. We realise our challenge is enormous and hope to expand this initiative into a global network,” RAF said.

The Refreeze the Arctic Foundation is able to do its work thanks to a donation in memory of Hanns Walter Salzer Levi: linguist, historian, global citizen and philanthropist. The Foundation aims to develop emergency measures to combat global warming. It specifically supports research to make clouds whiter to reflect sunlight.

Marine Cloud Brightening is just one piece of research dedicated to tackling climate change at the University of Cambridge, which created its Cambridge Zero climate initiative in 2019 to focus the power of one of the world’s top five global research universities on finding solutions to humanity’s most pressing problem.

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